Misogyny Speech

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The Misogyny Speech was a parliamentary speech delivered by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 9 October 2012 in reaction to alleged sexism from opposition leader Tony Abbott.[1]


The Opposition Leader at the time, Tony Abbott, had risen in parliament with a motion to have Peter Slipper removed as Speaker over crude and sexist texts Slipper had sent to an aide.[2] Abbott stated that every day Gillard supported Slipper was "another day of shame for a government which should already have died of shame".[3] Gillard made statements in support of Slipper and linked Abbott's motion to remarks made by Alan Jones in the then-recent Alan Jones shame controversy.[4][5] Gillard said that "every day in every way" Abbott was sexist and misogynist.[1][6]

Within the speech, Gillard noted a number of statements Abbott had previously made. In an interview Abbott had stated, "If it's true, Stavros [the interviewer], that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?" When another person present at this interview stated they wanted their daughter to have as much opportunity as their son, Abbott responded, "Yeah, I completely agree, but what if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?" Gillard also said that in March 2004, Abbott stated, "Abortion is the easy way out" and that he had stood next to a sign "ditch the witch" in reference to her political role.[7]


The speech was criticised by some Australian journalists but attracted widespread interest and positive attention in feminist blogs and social media. Expat Chloe Angyal wrote for Britain's The Guardian that the speech tackled "sexism head-on" and was a "masterful, righteous take-down"[8] and similar opinions were expressed by other expatriate Australian journalists.[4][9][10] Britain's Daily Telegraph women's editor said that Gillard had cleverly shifted the focus of the news story with "an impressive set of insults".[11] Within a week, a YouTube version of the speech had one million views.[12] As of 2018 the ABC news video has 3 million views.[13] The context of the Labor Party's support for Peter Slipper, however, meant that commentary from domestic journalists was far more critical, with Michelle Grattan writing "it sounded more desperate than convincing", Peter Hartcher that Gillard "chose to defend the indefensible" and Peter van Onselen that the government had "egg on their collective faces".[14][15] The public reaction was also polarised: approval ratings of Gillard and Abbott both improved following the speech.[16][17]

Gillard told media that she had been approached by world leaders who congratulated her on the speech at the 2012 Asia-Europe Meeting, including French President François Hollande and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.[18] Gillard told press that United States President Barack Obama had also raised her speech when she phoned to congratulate him for his victory in the 2012 United States election.[19][20] Two years after the speech, Hillary Clinton said that Gillard had "faced outrageous sexism", and that she found the speech very striking.[21]

Abbott's response[edit]

Abbott discussed the speech with Annabel Crabb on her TV show Kitchen Cabinet in September 2013 ahead of the 2013 federal election, saying, "it was a very unfair speech, I thought, and it was a completely invalid speech in terms of responding to the issue of that day; it was just an invalid thing to say. But look, politics is about theatre and at the time I didn't think it was very effective theatre at all. But plainly it did strike a chord in a lot of people who had not followed the immediate problem that had brought on that particular parliamentary debate."[22]

Gillard's remarks[edit]

Gillard explained the speech to The Guardian's Gabriella Chan remarking "I thought after everything I have experienced, I have to listen to Tony Abbott lecture me about sexism." and that it was this "That gave me the emotional start to the speech and once I started, it took on a life of its own." Additionally she felt she was receiving "the burden but none of the benefits" as being the first female Prime Minister of Australia.[23]

Perceptions of hypocrisy[edit]

Gillard's speech was criticised as hypocritical by some because earlier in the day the Labor Party had passed legislation cutting welfare benefits to single parents, almost all of whom were single mothers.[24][25][26] In Overland, Stephanie Convery wrote: "Standing up for women's rights is not just about calling sexism for what it is. It's about agitating for specific change... I don't care how many sharp speeches she makes: her government is making life for some of the most vulnerable women in Australia even harder than it already is, and I want no part in it."[27] In Crikey, Shakira Hussein wrote "I will not be lectured on sexism or misogyny by Julia Gillard on the very day that she has driven so many women deeper into poverty." [28] Many single mothers interviewed by Anwen Crawford for Meanjin were similarly critical of the speech's timing.[29]

Results of the speech[edit]

After Gillard's speech went viral, the Macquarie Dictionary updated its definition of the term "misogyny".[30][31] Previously defined as a "hatred of women" by the Australian dictionary, misogyny now encompasses "entrenched prejudice against women".[32] Director of The Australian National Dictionary Centre in Canberra, Amanda Laugesen said the broader definition has a long history, with the original Oxford English Dictionary defining misogyny as "hatred or dislike or prejudice against women" and including examples dating back to the 19th century.[33]


  1. ^ a b Ireland, Judith; Wright, Jessica (9 October 2012). "Coalition fails to oust Slipper". National Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  2. ^ Farr, Malcolm (9 October 2012). "REVEALED: What Peter Slipper's sexist text messages actually said". News.com.au. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  3. ^ Stephanie Gardiner, (10 October 2012), 'Died of shame': focus on Abbott's use of controversial phrase, Sydney Morning Herald, Accessed 21 July 2016
  4. ^ a b Lester, Amelia (9 October 2012). "Ladylike: Julia Gillard's Misogyny Speech". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  5. ^ McDonald, Mark (11 October 2012). "Australian Leader Unleashes Blistering Speech". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  6. ^ "Gillard labels Abbott a misogynist" (video). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Transcript of Julia Gillard's speech". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  8. ^ Angynl, Chloe (9 October 2010). "It's good to see Julia Gillard tackle sexism head-on". Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  9. ^ Attard, Monica (10 October 2012). "Australia's prime minister comes out swinging in sexism row". CNN. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Julia Gillard, Australia Prime Minister, Launches Blistering Attack On Sexism During Parliament Speech". Huffington Post. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  11. ^ Gardiner, Stephanie (10 December 2012). "Julia 'badass' Gillard: Slipper resignation just a sidebar". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 25 July 2013.
  12. ^ Henderson, Gerard (16 October 2012). "Short-sighted see hate at every turn". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Julia Gillard's "misogyny speech" in full". YouTube. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  14. ^ Whyte, Sally (10 October 2012). "Gillard fires up, Slipper fired: the pundits' verdict". Crikey.
  15. ^ Holmes, Jonathan (15 October 2012). "The speech that burst the press gallery's bubble". Media Watch. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  16. ^ "PM has slight edge after sexism row: poll". The Australian. AAP. 15 October 2012. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012.
  17. ^ Federal politics – voting intention, Essential Vision, 5 August 2013, archived from the original on 12 August 2013
  18. ^ World leaders praise Gillard sexism speech at ASEM, AustralianTimes.co.uk, 8 November 2012, archived from the original on 21 October 2013, retrieved 21 October 2013
  19. ^ Coorey, Phillip (10 November 2012). "Now it's Obama's turn to praise Gillard speech". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  20. ^ Grattan, Michelle (10 November 2012). "Obama aware of misogyny speech". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media.
  21. ^ Ferguson, Sarah (16 June 2014). "Hillary Clinton says 'no place for sexism in politics'". Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  22. ^ Presenter: Annabel Crabb (4 September 2013). "Tony Abbott". Kitchen Cabinet. Season 3. Episode 7. ABC Television. ABC1.
  23. ^ Chan, Gabrielle (30 September 2013). "Julia Gillard explains 'misogyny speech'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  24. ^ Cox, Eva (17 October 2012). "Prejudiced policymaking underlies Labor's cuts to single parent payments". theconversation.com. The Conversation. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  25. ^ Passant, John (4 January 2013). "How the poor are shunted into deeper poverty just for political capital". www.smh.com.au. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Bid to Delay Single Parent Cut Fails". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  27. ^ Convery, Stephanie (10 October 2012). "On that parliamentary smackdown". www.overland.org.au. Overland. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  28. ^ Hussein, Shakira (10 October 2012). "Pooping Gillard's Party". www.crikey.com.au. Crikey. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  29. ^ Crawford, Anwen (2014). "This Isn't Working: Single Mothers and Welfare". meanjin.com.au. Meanjin (Vol. 73, No.3). Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  30. ^ Gillard's speech prompts misogyny definition rethink, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 17 October 2012, archived from the original on 20 August 2013, retrieved 5 September 2013
  31. ^ "Misogyny definition to change after Gillard speech", The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 October 2012, archived from the original on 18 October 2012, retrieved 5 September 2013
  32. ^ Summers, Anne (November 2012). "Her rights at work: the political persecution of Australia's first female prime minister". Economic and Labour Relations Review. 23 (4): 115. ISSN 1035-3046. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  33. ^ "Misogyny definition to change after Gillard speech", The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 October 2012, archived from the original on 18 October 2012, retrieved 12 June 2014

External links[edit]

Transcript and video[edit]

Selected further media coverage[edit]